Working for Smart Growth:
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Joint Environment Committee Dives in on Climate Change, Coastal Resilience

August 14th, 2017 by New Jersey Future staff

The following article was written by New Jersey Future intern Chris Gough.

Planning Manager David Kutner delivering testimony at the hearing.

The Senate Environment and Energy Committee and the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee met jointly Thursday morning to discuss climate change and its impact on New Jersey’s coastal communities. The two-and-a-half hour session included testimony from expert witnesses and the general public. Committee Co-chairs Sen. Bob Smith and Asm. Tim Eustace led the hearing, which took place in the coastal community of Lavallette.

The expert witnesses delivered their testimonies with a palpable sense of urgency, to legislators who appeared genuinely committed to addressing the problems associated with New Jersey’s changing climate. Among the experts who testified was New Jersey Future Planning Manager David Kutner. (Testimony) Read the rest of this entry »

Good News, Bad News in New Monmouth Poll

August 2nd, 2017 by Tim Evans

The latest edition of the Monmouth University Poll’s Garden State Quality of Life Index contains some good news — a record high percentage of people rating their town as good or excellent — but also some bad news: The overall quality of life index actually declined for people age 18 to 34, even as it went up among other age groups.

On the good-news side, redevelopment of older, built-out areas may be making more people happy with their quality of life, especially in historically distressed urban areas that are now on the rebound. In fact, the largest single increase in the index came from Essex and Hudson counties, which saw a jump from +4 to +18. The index in what the poll calls the Urban community type also rose, from -2 to +7.

However, on the bad-news side, Millennials will probably keep leaving the state if they can’t afford to buy into the walkable-urbanism renaissance. New Jersey has the highest percentage among the 50 states of young adults still living with their parents, an indication that many cannot afford to live on their own here. New Jersey’s high housing costs — the product of a chronic undersupply of housing brought on by the practice of “fiscal zoning” — are certainly part of the problem. (A recent study by the New York branch of the Federal Reserve finds that mounting student loan debt is also a major factor in preventing young adults from being able to afford to move out.)

According to Monmouth Pollster Patrick Murray, the Millennial index numbers should serve as a warning sign for state officials. This group is more able to move to where they can find good jobs, affordable rents, and “18-hour communities.” It is also the group that drives household formation and major associated purchases, and a large-scale outmigration of this group from New Jersey would act as a drag on future economic growth.

The Monmouth University Poll’s Garden State Quality of Life Index is calculated based on five questions regarding residents’ opinion of the state as a place to live, and can range from -100 to +100.

Sound Management, Transparency Key to Ensuring Reliable, Reasonably Priced Drinking Water

July 24th, 2017 by New Jersey Future staff

Below is New Jersey Future’s statement on the July 21, 2017, signing of the Water Quality Accountability Act.

New Jersey Future applauds the efforts of all those involved in the July 21 passage of the Water Quality Accountability Act (S2834/A4569). Among the law’s key provisions, it will require drinking-water utilities to develop comprehensive plans for managing their infrastructure, and to dedicate sufficient funds for the highest-priority improvement projects identified in those plans.

“This law is an important step in the process of upgrading New Jersey’s aging, inadequate water infrastructure,” said New Jersey Future Executive Director Peter Kasabach. “It will help ensure that residents and businesses alike have reliable access to drinking water at a reasonable cost.

“Too many of our utility companies have avoided the rate increases necessary to support cost-effective long-term maintenance and investment, and as a result have been forced to focus their resources on more costly emergency repairs,” Kasabach continued. “A good asset management plan is the first step toward realigning spending priorities and bringing down the long-term costs of running our water systems.”

The legislation requires utilities to provide the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities or Department of Community Affairs a report on its asset management plan, identifying improvements to be undertaken in the coming year along with their associated costs, and listing improvements made in the year immediately past, along with those associated costs.

New Jersey Future has urged the administration to  enhance transparency and accountability: It has recommended that the NJDEP, as part of its rulemaking process, define simple, standardized metrics of water system condition to be included in utilities’ asset management plans, and that the status of asset management plan submissions, the key metrics of system condition, and a summary of improvements planned and made, including their costs, be made publicly available.

“The transparency and accountability recommendations, if implemented, will ensure that municipal officials and ratepayers will be able to understand clearly the condition of the systems that provide their drinking water, the steps being taken to keep those systems in good working order, how their ratepayer dollars are being used to maintain those systems, and the metrics being used to evaluate progress,” explained New Jersey Future Managing Director Chris Sturm.

The legislation addresses one of the key goals of Jersey Water Works, a 300-plus-member collaborative that promotes water infrastructure upgrades. The collaborative has prioritized the use of asset management programs as key to achieving sustainable, cost-effective water services.  

McKinsey’s Smart Economic Vision for New Jersey

July 20th, 2017 by Elaine Clisham

It was heartening to see the McKinsey & Company report on what it will take to “re-seed” New Jersey’s economy, because it shared many of the same priorities highlighted in New Jersey Future’s gubernatorial platform, Smart Growth Is Economic Growth.

Specifically, the McKinsey report notes that New Jersey has been under-investing in what it sees as the key drivers of economic growth: people, infrastructure, and what it calls “young, mid-sized businesses.” In doing so, the report concludes, the state has been ignoring the potential for as much as $60 billion in gross domestic product and 250,000 jobs. Read the rest of this entry »

Images Available for Educational Signage on Combined-Sewer Outfalls

June 29th, 2017 by Moriah Kinberg

Towns Can Download Graphic Elements To Create Educational Signs To Complement Warnings

An example of a full installation of educational signage graphics.

Nearly 20 percent of New Jersey’s population resides in communities with combined-sewer outfalls (CSOs). These older urban communities are densely populated, job centers, and tourist destinations. During heavy rainfall combined-sewer systems get overwhelmed and overflow a combination of sewage and stormwater into area waterways. While these communities are in the process of developing plans to reduce or eliminate combined-sewer outfalls, residents and visitors need to be informed about the outfalls and occurrences of overflows, and warned to avoid contact with waterways for at least three days after it rains.

The Jersey Water Works Community Engagement Committee sought to come up with signage that could be used by towns, organizations and individuals to educate the general public on combined-sewer overflows. A subcommittee made up of representatives from the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, the North Hudson Sewerage Authority, the state Department of Environmental Protection, non-profits, and community groups worked on a concept and different scenarios under which the signs could be used. The committee worked with Damon Rich of HECTOR, an urban design, planning and civic arts studio, to develop a series of images for signs, with text in Spanish and English, that could be used in different settings and communities. Several permit holders were surveyed to ensure that the end product would be easy and affordable to print and could be used in multiple settings, and then the DEP reviewed the content.

A full installation includes three components: a warning, explanation (full and simplified), and contact information. The images can be used together on one sign or in a variety of combinations. For example, the full installation can be used at a riverfront park with an outfall, a fishing pier or at a boat/kayak/watercraft launch.

The explanation signs shows show a combined-sewer system on a clear day, a rainy day and a rainy day with improvements, and close-ups for the improvements that individuals can make to reduce sewer overflows, including a rain barrel and rain garden, and what cities and utilities can do, including separating storm and sanitary sewers, replacing old pipes, and building more parks. This version, along with the informational module, could be posted in areas that do not have an outfall but affect a combined sewer system, like a park in a sewershed.

Downloadable images to for educational NJ CSO signs.

These educational signs complement the warning signs at each CSO outfall that combined sewer system communities have installed to comply with permit requirements as part of the NJ CSO permit Long Term Control Plan. Continuing to educate the affected public on CSOs is part of permit holders’ obligations. These images can also be used on leaflets, flyers and signs with general information at areas near a CSO, like beaches, fishing piers, parks and other places within 100 feet of an outfall. As communities continue to work on green and gray infrastructure solutions to address CSOs it is important for the public to know what CSOs are, what precautions should be taken, and where more information can be found.

Many States Making New Investments in Water Infrastructure

June 28th, 2017 by New Jersey Future staff

New Report Assesses Landscape of Programs

The following article and related report were both written by Jersey Water Works intern Vivian Chang

Water infrastructure across the United States is crumbling. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is just one example of the major problems facing communities. The American Water Works Association estimates that, over the next 25 years, there will be a $1 trillion deficit for meeting service demands in drinking water systems alone. Such funding gaps are having severe negative effects on water quality and social and economic outcomes. Water infrastructure across the United States is crumbling. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is just one example of the major problems facing communities. The American Water Works Association estimates that, over the next 25 years, there will be a $1 trillion deficit for meeting service demands in drinking water systems alone. Such funding gaps are having severe negative effects on water quality and social and economic outcomes.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jersey Water Works Co-Sponsors New One Water Awards Program

June 12th, 2017 by New Jersey Future staff

Jersey Water Works, the statewide cross-sector collaborative focused on upgrading New Jersey’s outdated water infrastructure, has partnered with the Association of Environmental Authorities (AEA) and the American Water Works Association – New Jersey Section to debut the New Jersey One Water Awards, which will recognize water infrastructure programs or projects that address water issues on a holistic and sustainable level.

The organizations are jointly sponsoring the awards to spotlight those programs that exemplify integration across the water cycle, that reflect collaboration, innovation, and public education, and that advance long-term sustainability by meeting multiple needs and generating multiple benefits. Read the rest of this entry »

Census Numbers Confirm Renewed Growth in Urban Areas

May 26th, 2017 by Tim Evans

Redevelopment along the Jersey City waterfront. Source: King of Hearts via wikimedia

The Census Bureau released 2016 municipal population estimates yesterday. The new data once again illustrate that redevelopment is the new normal, with built-out places reversing decades of stagnation and sometimes outright population loss to become the primary drivers of growth in the years since the 2008 recession. This is a continuation of a trend we noted last year, and in previous years.

The 271 municipalities that were at least 90 percent built out as of 2007 (meaning that they have already built on most or all of their buildable land) accounted for a full two-thirds (66.8 percent) of total statewide population growth between 2008 and 2016. This same group of municipalities only accounted for a negligible 3.6 percent of total growth between 2000 and 2008, so the post-recession turnaround is quite dramatic. Read the rest of this entry »

Report: Changes in Affordable Housing Tax Credit Criteria Move More People to High-Opportunity Areas

May 23rd, 2017 by Tim Evans

New Jersey results contrast with national numbers; could provide example for other states on how to begin reversing the trend of concentrated poverty.

Part of the Heritage at Alexander Hamilton development in Paterson, financed in part with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

While recent news reports have highlighted the low number of affordable housing projects using federal tax credits that are built in high-opportunity areas, a recent examination by New Jersey Future has found that strategic changes in the way federal funds are allocated for affordable housing in the state have meant that many more affordable housing projects have been directed away from high-poverty neighborhoods and toward areas that offer greater economic opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Re-Forum’ Will Tackle Updates to State’s Land-Use Law

May 5th, 2017 by New Jersey Future staff

Has the state’s Municipal Land Use Law helped or hindered your efforts to redevelop vibrant, walkable communities? Now is your chance to participate in a re-examination process of this important development and redevelopment law. New Jersey Future is part of a Steering Committee formed to help guide a comprehensive re-examination of the state’s MLUL. The effort will be focused on developing “ways to enhance and update the MLUL to reflect 21st-century planning advancements, recognize the diversity of conditions across municipalities, create an efficient, value-driven review process, and ensure development and preservation outcomes that support shared statewide priorities of prosperity, environmental stewardship, affordability, mobility, public health & safety, quality places and sustainable design.” Read the rest of this entry »

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